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Blog post

Robotic eye surgery

November 5, 2019
By Amir Molaei

Robotic eye surgery

Robotically assisted eye surgery is a promising solution to overcome the shortcomings inherent in conventional surgical procedures, including vitreoretinal surgeries. Using robots for eye surgery improves precision, helps reduce a surgeon's hand tremors and other unwanted hand motions, and allows for tele-operations and prolonged surgeries.

Research on robots performing eye surgeries started in the 90s, and Oxford University researchers performed the first retinal robotic surgery in 2018 when they used a robot to remove a membrane from the back of an eye. Given that robotic eye surgery is still in its infancy, there are various areas in which this solution still has potential to make an impact. Here are some fields to consider.

Retinal surgery

Vitreoretinal surgeries address serious sight threatening conditions such as retinal detachment, macular pucker, macular holes, vitreous hemorrhage and diabetic retinopathy. Retinal surgeries demand a high degree of accuracy and push surgeons to their physiological limits. Additionally, long surgical times are uncomfortable for both the surgeon and the patient. Increasing precision and fidelity while decreasing the duration of a surgery has led to a breakthrough in vitreoretinal surgery, which is possible using robotic systems.

Drug delivery

Drug delivery refers to any method used to transport drugs and compounds to specific sites within the body. A robot’s ability to inject a precise amount of a drug under the retina or at a specific location within the vitreous cavity will provide high precision drug delivery to any location within the eye.

Gene therapy

Gene therapy has been gaining increased prominence in medicine.  The eye is one of the organs most likely to benefit from advances in gene therapy. It is a unique target due to its accessibility and immunologically privileged condition. Robotic systems provide a highly reliable method to deliver gene therapy constructs at a specific site inside the eye with high precision and speed.


Robotic systems provide surgeons with the ability to perform surgery over long distances while sitting in an ergonomic position. Soon, ocular tele‑surgery will be a feasible way to bring emergency eye care to remote locations.

Bio‑printing inside the eye

One of the major advances we may expect soon in medicine is being able to bio‑print living tissues and organs. Robotics will provide surgeons with a suitable tool to bio‑print living cells inside the eye and maybe even replace damaged cells in the retina.

Automated laser application

In laser photocoagulation, robots can guide the laser beam to the target spot inside the eye in a more precise way compared to the manual method.

Surgical skill evaluation

Surgeons can use surgical robots as devices for quantitative assessments of surgical movements such as interactions with tissue, as well as the precision of movements and velocity. As a result, surgeons can improve their skills.

About the author

Amir Molaei is a doctoral candidate in Mechanical Engineering. He holds an MSc degree in Mechatronics and a BSc in Mechanical Engineering both from K.N. Toosi University of Technology, Tehran, Iran. Amir's research is focused on the design, modelling and control of flexible robots to help surgeons operate inside the eye in a more precise and a less invasive way.

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